Coprosma virescens


Coprosma: from the Greek kopros 'dung' and osme 'smell', referring to the foul smell of the species, literally 'dung smell'
virescens: Becoming green

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Declining

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


2012 - DP


Coprosma virescens Petrie



Brief Description

Rare orangeish or olive green bushy shrub with tangled wide-angled branches bearing pairs of small pointed oval leaves on flattened leaf stalk. Bark smooth and knobbled, greenish. Leaves 5-9mm long, with a ridge of small hairs on stem between leaf bases. Fruit white with small black dots.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


None (first described in 1879)


Endemic. North and South Islands from the ranges east of Gisborne, and especially around Taihape south. Scarce in Nelson and apparently absent from Marlborough and absent from Westland, common in Canterbury south to Southland. Throughout its range it is mainly eastern and often very uncommon or absent from large parts of its range


Lowland to lower montane. On well drained to poorly draining fertile soils (often overlying calcareous or base-rich igneous rocks). In forest and shrubland.


Filiramulate, divaricating greyish or reddish-green shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall with green to greyish bark; branches slender, ascending; branchlets very slender, subtetragonous, flexible, interlacing, glabrous or nearly so. Leaves often fascicled, on slender glabrous petioles 2-6 mm long. Stipules subacute to obtuse, broadly triangular, connate near base, more or less pubescent to glabrous; denticles usually 3. Lamina subcoriaceous, glabrous, pale green, brown-green or reddish, 4-9 × 3-6 mm rhomboid, ovate to ovate-oblong, obtuse, abruptly narrowed to petiole; margins sometimes waved or with a few blunt teeth. Reticulations of veins usually evident on both surfaces, at least when lamina fresh. Male flowers 1-2 on short branchlets; calyx 0; corolla funnelform, lobes ovate, acute, much > tube. Female flowers solitary on short branchlets; calyx-teeth minute, ciliolate; corolla tubular, lobes acute, more or less = tube. Drupe 5-6 mm long, yellowish white, oblong.

Similar Taxa

Easily recognised by the filiramulate, divaricating growth habit, green to greyish bark, and small pale greenish or brown-green rhomboid, ovate to ovate-oblong, obtuse leaves that are abruptly narrowed to the petiole. The drupes are oblong, yellowish-white and up to 6 mm long when fresh. It is perhaps most likely to be confused with Coprosma tenuicaulis which is a species of swamps and which differs by having pubescent rather than glabrescent, dark maroon rather then reddish, orange or greenish branchlets, and larger (8-13 x 9-10 mm cf. 5-9 x 3-6 mm in C. virescens) orbicular-ovate, spathulate, obtuse leaves which have darker margins and a lighter pigmented central blotch on the upper leaf surface. The drupes of Coprosma tenuicaulis are globose, 3-4 mm dimatere and dark reddish-black to black


September - November


May - July

Propagation Technique

Very popular in cultivation on account of its unusual growth habit and tolerance of a range of soils and planting situations. Easy from fresh seed and semi-hardwood cuttings. An attractive shrub to small tree that does best in full sun but will tolerate moderate shade. Should be planted in a free draining but moist, fertile soil.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 44

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Fleshy drupes are dispersed by frugivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Commonly sold by most retail plant nurseries.


Description adapted from Allan (1961)

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 6 Dec 2014